Lloyd Waters: Ninety-eight friends lose their jobs

April 27, 2013|By LLOYD WATERS

You can lose a job for many different reasons. Maybe it’s because of job performance, decision-making, office politics or economic conditions. Or even a multitude of other factors.

Regardless of the reason, losing a job can be a very stressful situation for a person desiring to get out of bed and contribute to his own livelihood.

A few weeks ago, I went to work and — due to budgetary shortfalls with our federal government — witnessed the permanent layoff of 98 people at our government work site.  During my last nine years of employment there, I had the opportunity to come to know many of these people.

They were my friends.

They came from all walks of life and represented many Americans who go to work each day while trying to make ends meet.

Seniors, middle-age and young workers were part of this group. Some had worked at these jobs for many years, while others were new and eager to the work site.

Some were going to school part time searching for the possibility of future advancement. Some were single parents trying to make a living and trying to provide for their families the best they could. Some were seniors trying to keep abreast of the changing world and trying to hold on to their self-esteem and pride.

Most lived from paycheck to paycheck, trying to keep pace with the price of milk, gasoline, utilities, taxes and those items necessary for living.

As I thought about the importance of jobs, I remembered going to the Maryland Correctional Institution in the aftermath of the 1991 prison riot.

While doing my assessment of the problems at that facility, I noticed that many prisoners did not have a job assignment.  Although I know many critics in our society believe that prisoners should not be paid for work, working for a dollar or so a day was pretty important to someone who was looking for something to do and for a few cents to spend.

As I looked for some of the solutions to the many problems of the prison at that time, I set a course to create as many jobs as I could.

In the end, that major decision helped to restore order and to establish a relatively safe prison environment for the next 12 years.

I think our government should also recognize the importance of creating jobs in our country. I believe, in our society, anyone who wants to work should have the opportunity to do so.

As I attempted to console as many of these 98 individuals as I could as they were packing up their belongings to leave their work site, I could see the distress as they attempted to come to grips with what tomorrow might bring.

Fortunately, there would be the assistance of unemployment benefits and some job-training opportunities that might help prepare them for another profession. But the uncertainties of the future also showed on their faces.

After the benefits were gone, would they be able to find a job in a dwindling work environment?

As I continue to think about the waste of our government and its priorities in spending money, I wonder if the president and Congress ever give much personal thought to the plight of any of these disenfranchised employees.

President Obama has recently accepted a 5 percent pay reduction, but I believe he continues to play political games with sequestration. Politicians create many of these problems but don’t want to be part of any real solutions.

“Lead by example” was a lesson I learned many years ago. I can’t find many leaders willing to do that today.   

For a lazy person, a job doesn’t hold much importance; but for someone who wants to work, well, that’s a different story.

Life goes on, but it won’t be the same for those 98 people searching for a little stability in an unstable world.

Lloyd “Pete” Waters is a Sharpsburg resident who writes for The Herald-Mail.

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